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Class AA Long Island Championship preview: Baldwin vs. Half Hollow Hills West

Shane Gatling  of Baldwin drives to the

Shane Gatling  of Baldwin drives to the hoop during the Nassau boys basketball Class AA final against Westbury at LIU Post on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Credit: James Escher

What: Boys Basketball Class AA Long Island Championship

Who: Baldwin Bruins (21-1) vs. Half Hollow Hills West Colts (21-2)

When: 3:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: LIU Post

How did they get here?

Baldwin, Nassau’s top seed, staved off No. 4 Massapequa’s upset bid in the county semifinals and controlled the championship against Westbury the entire way.

Half Hollow Hills West, Suffolk’s No. 3 seed, handled No. 2 Northport in the semifinals and fended off 2014-15 champion Brentwood in the final.

What’s at stake for Baldwin?

The Bruins have won five of the last 10 Nassau AA titles, bu they have advanced to the state tournament just twice during that span. None of the players on this year’s roster were on the 2011-12 team that reached the state semifinals. Baldwin fell to Brentwood, 72-51, in the LIC last year.

What’s at stake for Half Hollow Hills West?

The Colts won the LIC in 2009-10 and 2010-11, with current Detroit Pistons forward Tobias Harris leading the way the first time and former Iowa State and Iona guard Tavon Sledge the second. They have not advanced this far since.

What happened last time?

This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season, the first coming at Baldwin’s Chanee Brown Christmas Tournament on Dec. 29. Hills West opened a 36-26 halftime lead, but the Bruins dominated every facet of the game in the second half to rally for a 77-60 victory. Bruins point guard Shane Gatling had 27 points, five assists and five steals, and wing Jared Rhoden scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half.

How do they match up?

It’s no secret at this point -- both Baldwin and Hills West like to run, with defense fueling their offensive transition opportunities.

The Colts, with more size and length, frequently will have four players 6-4 or taller on the floor at the same time. Kian Dalyrimple (6-5), Richard Altenord (6-4) and Cameron Jordan (6-5) all have displayed their acute ability to use their length to clog passing lanes and break out into transition.

In the halfcourt, Baldwin cannot afford to lose track of Dalyrimple, who moves well without the ball and does not need much space to launch a jumper. His 70 made three-pointers lead Suffolk.

Baldwin has one of Long Island’s most potent duos in Rhoden (20 ppg) and Gatling (17.1 ppg), both of whom are a threat from anywhere on the floor. But who else will provide significant offensive contributions?

That’s an important question because Hills West proved in its playoff wins over Northport and Brentwood that players outside its aforementioned Big Three can carry the team in critical moments. Matt Asenjo scored 22 points against Northport, while Deven Williams poured in 28 points to fuel the defeat of Brentwood.

At 6-5, Zion Stephens can be an X-factor for Baldwin in that regard. He has the size and athleticism to counter Hills West. Stephens scored 14 points against the Colts on Dec. 29 and contributed 10 points to help Baldwin defeat Westbury in the county final.

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